3 Easy Ways to Eliminate Work Stress

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By Marcelle Yeager

As many of us emerge from the depths of a snowy, cold winter, we're beginning to dream of planned or soon-to-be scheduled vacations. You might be itching to sightsee or maybe just sit on a beach with a good book. Whatever the plan may be, it's likely well-deserved.

In a September 2014 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers compared the difference in nontraditional work hours of Americans versus those in five European countries. The study found that about 1 in 3 workers does some weekend work in the U.S., compared to 1 in 5 in France, Germany and the Netherlands. In the U.S., 1 in every 4 workers works at night, compared to 1 in 14 in France and the Netherlands.This suggests that U.S. workers are stretched thin with little time for family or social interaction. It is likely a root cause of increased health problems due to stress and lack of sleep.

Here's how you can you build in small bits of time for yourself to ensure smooth sailing, whether you work traditional hours or not:

Build health and happiness into your routine. While it may sound silly, schedule into your calendar what you are missing most. If you are constantly saying, "I don't have time for X anymore," it's time to make time. Things aren't going to change anytime soon unless you make a drastic life change, so you need to do it now. There simply isn't going to be a better time.

We are always saying, "I'll save these jeans for when I get back into exercising and lose weight," or, "After this quarter, I'll have more time to get things done." Maybe you're even delaying searching for a new job. When is the right time? The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to get started.

Identify a half hour slot and write "exercise" or "read." Habits stick. If you change them now, you'll be more likely to keep them. The longer you practice them, the easier it will be to continue, and that will make for a much happier work-life balance. It's fine to watch TV after work to relax, but try breaking up the monotony with something new. Read, or take a walk after dinner a few days a week before settling in for your favorite shows.

Remove small stressors. While a small bit of stress is OK, there are many small things that can contribute to your level of anxiety that you may not have considered. Do you leave your phone on vibrate while you're sleeping? Or even worse, do you wake up at night to check it? Both of these habits can cause you to sleep poorly. Turn night mode on to ensure you do not awake to random text messages.

Think about turning off your notifications, too. Do you need a notification for every new Facebook post or "Words With Friends" play? These are things you can check when you have a free moment. You don't necessarily need to be distracted by them while you are sleeping, reading, exercising or playing with your kids.

Along these lines, try not to check work email first thing in the morning unless you absolutely need to for a deadline or important issue. By checking it, you're heightening the intensity of your day from the get-go. Or if you're waiting for an email that didn't arrive yet, that can set you off on the wrong foot. Remember when there were no email or cellphones?

Always ask yourself if something has to be done now. Start your day differently by reading a good book or magazine, even for just 10 minutes while drinking your coffee.

Do the most dreadful task first. Whatever is nagging you the most on your to-do list, get it off there as fast as possible. This is the best way to prioritize as you reduce your anxiety levels quickly. It will save you from extra time spent stressing out as you complete the rest of your list.

While these are small ways to lower your anxiety, increase your feeling of balance and separate work from life, they may add up to big returns. Starting these habits now will bring great benefits to you in years to come as they'll be more likely to stick and stay with you. You'll thank yourself later when you see the results, including improved mental function and better nights of sleep. Who doesn't want both those things in their life? It's time to gradually return bits of time to ourselves, which hopefully will turn into more hours with time and practice.

Marcelle Yeager is the president of Career Valet, which delivers personalized career navigation services. Her goal is to enable people to recognize skills and job possibilities they didn't know they had to make a career change or progress in their current career. She worked for more than 10 years as a strategic communications consultant, including four years overseas. Marcelle holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.
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